The biggest injury to that “Great Leap Forward” towards an open, egalitarian, universalist society (to borrow Mao’s phrase and put it to much better use) was actually the shattering of Christendom. This came via the triple hammer blows of (1) the Black Death and the tremendous socio-economic upheaval it produced [now there was the pandemic of pandemics!], (2) the Reformation followed by the Wars of Religion, and (3) the Enlightenment, which, despite all its protestations to be the Age of the coming of the great light of emancipation from superstition, opened the doors wide to the tsunami called the French Revolution.
We do not need more religious judgmentalism and sectarianism. This discussion is not even about Christianity being superior to Enlightenment principles for building a just and compassionate society. I suspect we need both. It seems that when the two shun and despise each other, we end up in a terrible place. What we are both aiming for, so we say, is rediscovering the real sources of our ideals of freedom, and finding a sure foundation upon which to renew them.
Neither whisper is going away. Both will remain, breaking ever in upon us, piercing our armour of self-sufficiency and independence at the most inconvenient and unsuspecting moments. The monstrous Nazi and Soviet horrors of the twentieth century remind us. At such moments the whispers become warning shouts, alarms, that our true nature is other than the myth of self and independence, the conspiracy of silence (or rather silencing) about the greatest story of all time. Even a great leader of the West in that moment (Winston Churchill) recognized that it was really about the survival of “Christian civilization”, which even in 1940 was well on the road to a fading echo, although not then quite a whisper.
The nitty-gritty of our struggle with the evil within is not resolved by abstract reasoning. It is faced every day in our decisions about how to treat family members, friends and acquaintances, business and work colleagues, schoolmates, strangers, and our planet. Most of these decisions are made casually, on automatic pilot so to speak. They are made in accordance with an (however unconsciously) internalized set of principles and criteria we have imbibed from our family of birth, our more extended community as we grow and mature, and the cultural influences we encounter and move in and through along our road to maturity.